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Vine City Residents Seek Assurance As Mims Park Plans Unfold

Resident Mamie Moore questions Atlanta Watershed employees about development plans for Vine City and English Avenue.
Resident Mamie Moore questions Atlanta Watershed employees about development plans for Vine City and English Avenue.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE

After years of delays, plans to build a storm-water pond and to overhaul Vine City's Mims Park are moving forward.

The city of Atlanta is moving forward with plans to build a pond and improve Mims Park in Vine City.

It’s an early step in a $50 million plan meant to revitalize an area that’s been plagued by crime and blight, but some residents worry the improvements could mean getting priced out, down the line.

On Thursday, the city’s watershed department updated residents on design plans for a pond in Mims Park. They asked residents to pin suggestions to a clothesline they’d set up.

Thelma Reneau’s note read: “I want a safe place for our children to play, and for senior citizens to come and enjoy without being afraid.”

Reneau said she’s beyond ready to see positive changes in the neighborhood.

“I’m just keeping my joy, and I’m just excited, you know? It’s really good,” she said.

But like many in the area, she’s worried what development will really mean for the people who live there.

“It’s going to elevate everything,” Reneau​ said. “And being on a fixed income, are we really going to be able to stay here?”

“I’ve lived here for 25 years, in this neighborhood; I’m one of those residents,” said Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory Lee Young Jr.

He said the city is offering forgivable loans to resident homeowners, and it will require affordable housing quotas for any new rental units. But he said there’s no doubt, the neighborhood will change. It has to.

“The banks, right now they’re not financing. They’re not capitalizing on this opportunity until they see evidence we have a demographic in the community that can support it,” Young said.

Mims Park is one of four projects in the Proctor Creek Basin meant to stem flooding and boost economic growth in the area. They include Boone Boulevard, West Side Park Pond and Proctor Park.

Residents like Mamie Moore, “Mother Moore” to her neighbors, say that all sounds great, but she’s skeptical.

“It cannot be resident-driven if people are not knowledgeable and informed,” Moore said.

She said so far, her community has not been kept up to date on the plans, and she questions how effective the new green spaces will be in curing the neighborhood’s flooding problems. Watershed officials say the investment projects will reduce sediment in Proctor Creek by 30 percent and fecal bacteria by 25 percent.

Rosario Hernandez, who lives two blocks from Mims Park, said she’s pleased improvements are on the horizon. But she’s not convinced the improvements will be enough to stop her home from flooding, and she’s had trouble getting any clarity.

“We’ve been from one office to another, to another, and nobody knows who is the person that’s totally in charge,” Hernandez said. “And they say talk to your council person, talk to watershed, you still get bounced back and forth.”

She believes the answers aren’t there because of lingering unknowns about how the new Falcons stadium and related development will affect the communities nearby.

“There is a bigger Godzilla in the air,” said Hernandez, gesturing toward Mercedez-Benz stadium rising behind her, “that has to be fixed first, and then let’s see who stays after gentrification comes in, after the investors buy everything. Let’s see who stays and then we’re going to help them fix their mess.”

Construction for the planned pond and park upgrades is expected to start this fall and be complete by the end of 2017.